For the first time in almost 3 years the Washington Wizards [21-56] have won three games in a row. The Wizkids defeated the visiting Detroit Pistons [26-51] at The Phone Booth tonight 107-105 behind late game heroics from John Wall -- who was in high school the last time the Wizards won 3 in a row. The Wizards led by 2 points with 1.9 seconds left after John Wall hit 1 of 2 free throws. Sophomore Piston Austin Daye got the in-bounds pass in the corner and fired up a nice-looking 3-pointer to win the game, but it spun around the rim and popped out to secure another Wizards victory.
The Wizards jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter, but gave it all back in the second quarter and the Pistons led 54-52 at halftime behind the play of rookie center Greg Monroe [22 points, 14 rebounds, 4 dimes]. The game stayed close in the third quarter, with the lead see-sawing back and forth between the two teams. The Wizards stayed close thanks to a huge lead in fast break points, but the Pistons big men allowed the Pistons to dominate the glass and keep the heat on Washington. Before the game ended there were 21 lead changes and 9 ties.
The game was decided in the fourth quarter and it was rookie John Wall who did the deciding. Wall finished with 26 points and 12 assists, but it was his 16 4th quarter points that proved to be too much for the Pistons. Wall kept driving to the hoop and the Pistons had no one capable of keeping him out of the lane. The hard work paid off for Wall, who hit 14 of 16 foul shots, providing more than half his points for the night. Again and again when the game was on the line the Wizards let Wall take the game in his hands and the result, more often than not, was a winner for Washington.
Andray Blatche also had another big game for the Wizkids and the main reason was decision not to settle for the lazy outside jumpers. Blatche kept pounding the ball inside, using his speed for spin moves and his size to push opponents out of the way. Chris Wilcox, Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell -- none of them could stop Blatche, who finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 6 steals. Blatche worked hard again in this game, his fourth straight excellent performance. I'm not sure what has gotten into Blatche lately -- has he heard all the criticism and taken it to heart? -- but it is a nice way to end the season.
Mo Evans had another strong and efficient game, scoring 20 points on 9 of 13 shooting. Evans has been up and down since coming to the Wizards, but I've seen more up than down and while I wouldn't want to see him in the starting lineup next year, there's no doubt this guy should find a place on a solid NBA roster.
Rookie Jamal Crawford [17 points] looks like he's playing lame right now, but he hit a few big shots in the fourth quarter despite missing 11 of 17 shots on the evening. I wonder if all the playing time he's getting now [another 41 minutes tonight] is proving a shock to the system after spending most of the season on the far end of the bench for the Hawks.
The Wizards shot almost 50% from the field and 80% from the line, and while Washington was out-rebounded 47-40, they managed to narrow that gap in the fourth quarter with some strong glass- work by Blatche and center Javale McGee [8 points, 8 rebounds, 4-5 shooting, 3 blocks] who struggled with foul trouble  all night. The key stat for Washington tonight was 39-10 -- that's how badly the Wizards outscored the Pistons on the fast break.
The Wizards are playing with only 9 players right now, as Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Josh Howard, Trevor Booker and Hamady N'diaye are all injured and out for the season. Consequently, the Wizards bench is contributing almost nothing since much of the bench is either injured or has been pushed into the starting lineup by injuries. Nevertheless, the Wizards have won three games in a row for the first time since April 2008 and while none of the wins have come against top teams [the Cavaliers, the Hornets and the Pistons], we're definitely seeing some improvement from young players, as well as Blatche, the old man of the roster.
I know a lot of Wizards fans are rooting for the team to lose -- tank games -- in the hope of getting more ping-pong balls for the lottery. I hate this. The Wizards won the lottery last year without having the worst record and the odds are the Cleveland Cavaliers won't win the lottery this year. When you see how hard the Wizkids are playing right now [did you see Blatche jumping up and down and high-fiving teammates as he ran to the bench during a timeout?], I don't understand how anyone can root for them to lose. If such a thing as karma exists, teams that tank will spend an extra decade in lottery hell.
I love watching the Wizards play hard and I love watching them win, especially with their kids on the floor in the fourth quarter. I say "To Hell with the Tank!" Let's see the Wiz win out. Chances are, it will have little or no impact on their lottery chances anyway.